Michael Gaynor
VP debate: Ryan polite and gold, Biden rude and old as Raddatz takes turn as moderator
By Michael Gaynor
October 12, 2012

It would have been unforgettable if Raddatz had responded to Biden's evasive first answer with "I repeat: 'Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?' Yes or no, please."

BREAKING: CNN-ORC post-debate poll of Registered Voters: 48% said Ryan won. 44% said Biden won. Sampling error: +-5%.

I think that's reasonably accurate.

The biggest loser in the debate was President Obama. Obama had said that he had been too polite in his debate. Perhaps he told Vice President Joe Biden not to be polite and to exploit respect for older people to interfere with Congressman Paul Ryan's responses.

Ryan versus Biden was class versus crass.

Biden had a better debate than Obama, and he still lost.

Romney had been even better than Ryan was, whioch bodes well for the USA.

It was a memorable vice presidential debate and a fitting prelude to the final two presidential debates.

Some fact-checking is required to fully appreciate it.

Over time Ryan will be perceived as a bigger winner than he was perceived to be last night.

Astonishingly, after Obama apologists claimed that Romney won the presidential debate by lying, Biden claimed that the Obama administration wasn't aware of requests for more security in Libya before the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, contradicting two State Department officials and the former head of diplomatic security in Libya.

As written in National Review in 1996, "'A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.' But, eventually, truth gets booted and spurred, and the lie gets a good licking."

"We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there," Biden said.

In fact, two security officials who worked for the State Department in Libya at the time testified before the debate that they repeatedly requested more security and two State Department officials admitted they had denied those requests.

Charles Krauhammer called the debate even based on the transcript, with Biden the winner to listeners and Ryan to viewers.

That's reminiscent of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate. Those who watched called it for Kennedy, while those who listened said Nixon won.

Ryan, 42, is a gentleman from the Midwest, where good manners are expected.

Biden, 69, took full advantage of his age. He constantly interrupted. His grinning, smirking and mugging were unpresidential and both of his much younger juniors on the stage tolerated his crotchety ways.

Moderator Martha Raddatz did not respond when Biden took a page out of the Gingrich debate book and chided her.

Ryan was gold. He was very well prepared and composed despite Biden's incessant interruptions. He showed himself to be presidential. He discussed both foreign affairs and economic issues impressively and explained his pro-life position and how reason and science as well as his Catholic faith has helped guide him.

"I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life," Ryan said. "Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science."

Biden is a baptized Catholic too, and once voted for a constitutional amendment to protect life, but then abandoned a fundamental tenet of his faith that is fatal to a Democrat with national aspirations while continuing to identify himself as Catholic. That demonstrated his priority.

Allahpundit described Biden as an "[a]ngry old man yell[ing] at Paul Ryan for 90 minutes" (http://hotair.com/archives/2012/10/11/angry-old-man-yells-at-paul-ryan-for-90-minutes/).

It is an apt description.

In this case old does not mean senile or slow (although Biden seemed a bit tired near the end).

It means soon to be a septuagenarian and crotchety.

Ryan and Raddatz showed themselves to be polite people who respect the office of the Vice President, even though Biden was disrespectful.

Ryan pointed out Biden's incessant interrupting only once, and Raddatz patiently served as the kind of moderator that the Debate Commission wants now instead of a school marm, even though she had cause to put Biden in detention for his misconduct and had to expect to be pilloried in some quarters for not stopping the interruptions.

As it was four years ago, the question of the impartiality of the moderator arose. Gwen Ifill moderated in 2008, even though she had written a book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, that eventually was released on the day Obama was inaugurated. Raddatz's relationship with Obama became an issue before last night's debate. In each case the Debate Commission stood by its choice and the Republican candidates proceeded.

After last night's debate, Sean Hannity alluded to the fact that President Obama had attended Raddatz's 1991 wedding to Julius Genachowski. Genachowski served with Obama on the Harvard Law Review and was appointed Federal Communications Commissioner by Obama in 2009. Raddatz and Genachowski divorced in 1996. ABC, for whom Raddatz has worked as Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent since 2008 and previously worked as White House Correspondent during the Bush 43 Administration, defended Raddatz when The Daily Caller reported the connection.

Before the debate, Laura Ingraham tweeted that Raddatz is an excellent reporter.

After, Ingraham posted this: "After watching his on-stage antics, I conclude that Joe Biden just does not care if the country goes bankrupt. He simply refuses to acknowledge that our current fiscal path is unsustainable, and whenever Ryan tried to have a serious discussion on the budget, Biden just started bleating about his parents. Oh, and Martha Raddatz should have jumped in more." (http://www.lauraingraham.com/b/My-main-takeaway-from-the-VP-debate/-476484049948514255.html)

Count me among those who think that full disclosure is in order. For example, a moderator should disclose at the start who he or she voted for in the last presidential election and who he or she is supporting if he or she is supporting one of the debaters.

That said, moderators have never done that and I think Raddatz did a superb job, based on what now is expected of moderators by the Debate Commission.

John Podhoretz, who initially excoriated Jim Lehrer, the moderator of this year's first presidential debate as "the worst moderator in the history of moderation," rethought his criticism based upon current Debate Commission expectations. "Ideally, we want debates without moderators altogether. The implicit idea is that this is an exchange between two candidates, and the moderator shouldn't be the one to save one candidate or interrupt the flow of another," Podhoretz, told Politico. Podhoretz thought that as a result of criticism of Lehrer, Raddatz would "feel like she needs to take a more active role so she doesn't get beat up by the media."

Raddatz asked reasonable questions, covering subjects from the Benghazi attack to abortion while just watching Biden be rude and Ryan be polite.

It's for the voters to decide what kind of president and vice president they want. Steve Schmidt, chief strategist for Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Lehrer was actually a model for staying out of the way, and a model that should be emulated," said "I profoundly disagree with the idea that the lesson from last week is Martha Raddatz needs to be all over the candidates. That's not her job."

Raddatz did her job, and the gap in time speaking was less in the vice presidential debate than it was in the presidential debate.

In a post-debate interview with Politico, Lehrer said that it wasn't his job "to control the conversation."

He didn't, and neither did Raddatz, although Ryan was the one who had an answer cut short, apparently to make sure all subjects Raddatz picked were covered to some extent, and Biden was the one who whined that he wasn't getting enough time (and that unwarranted personal criticism elicited a quick Raddatz denial).

Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times promptly wrote an op-ed praising Raddatz as a "really astonishing person who....didn't ask puffy questions....[o]r let the candidates get away with vague non-answers."

That praise won't help Raddatz with conservatives, because Biden did not even answer Raddatz's first question and she did not follow up on it.

Rosenthal continued: "Ms. Raddatz acted like a working journalist instead of a television personality from her first question, on Ambassador Stevens' death: 'It was a pre-planned assault by heavily armed men,' she said. 'Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?'" It was a great question, but Biden didn't say either yea or nay.

Rosenthal also noted: "Later, she pressed Mr. Ryan. 'Governor Romney, and you're talking about this again tonight, talked about the weakness; talked about apologies from the Obama administration. Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?"

Another great question, and Ryan answered it.

Rosenthal claimed that "Ms. Raddatz showed a consistent willingness to call the candidates on their 'malarkey,' as the Vice President put it, noting that "[w]hen Mr. Ryan said he could cut taxes without reducing the deficit by eliminating loopholes, but didn't actually mention which loopholes, she drew attention to his evasiveness: 'No specifics, again.'"

The "evasiveness" mischaracterization is Rosenthal's, not Raddatz's, and asking for specifics was appropriate. Raddatz asked both men to be specific, and rightly so.

Rosenthal is correct that Raddatz pressed Ryan for detail, quoting her as saying "I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?" and it's a reasonable expectation that Ryan addressed.

What Rosenthal did NOT cite was a memorable example of Raddatz likewise pressing Biden for an answer.

It would have been unforgettable if Raddatz had responded to Biden's evasive first answer with "I repeat: 'Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?' Yes or no, please."

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, was furious with Raddatz for "us[ing] her position as debate moderator to ask the candidates about the impending bankruptcies of Social Security and Medicare," calling it "incredibly irresponsible to use such a loaded term to refer to the financial problems facing these programs." (www.businessinsider.com/martha-raddatz-on-social-security-what-would-you-do-about-the-united-states-imperialistic-foreign-policy-2012-10)

Baker concluded: "It is the job of the moderator to try to provide their audience with information and to draw out the candidates' views. It is incredibly irresponsible to use this platform to push their personal agenda for the country's two most important social programs."

I agree, but I must have missed it if Raddatz pushed her "personal agenda for the country's two most important social programs" during the debate.

Being a moderator or polite when one of the debaters is a curmudgeon isn't easy.

Being a curmudgeon seems very easy, but a curmudgeon should not be Vice President or President.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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